[From Contributions .., 1909]
(Read November 5, 1889.)
This paper was written in May 1888, and submitted to Professor W. Boyd Dawkins, along with the Contents of graves, in the following July. He kindly examined and noted the specimens, and in, his reply says, among other things :-
I have examined the specimens, and made a few notes about them. The essay ought to be printed. The specimens should go towards the new Manx museum that is to be-probably in Castle Rushen. I knew the spot, close to the New Pier, in 1870, and I quite agree with you about the occupation preceding the interments. The people, were probably not Eskimos, but pre-Aryan, non-Aryan, Neolithic aborigines. possibly tho ancestors of the small, dark Manx in this district, (i. e., in Rushen).
The following is the result of some investigations made by me from time to time, during the last two years,(i) at the tumulus and refuse heap at the Alfred Pier, Port St. Mary. My object in writing this is to offer a summary of what I have found.
It is, doubtless, well known that, besides the large kist, (pl. I.) part of which is still standing, there are the remains of several smaller ones on either side of it, but which, being all nearly destroyed, offer nothing for examination but their side slabs. To the N. E. of the largest Kist I came across a horizontal slab of stone, which, though only a few inches below the sod, appears to have formed the cover of a grave. Four or five inches below this stone I found a number of flat schist slabs, which formed the grave floor. This floor in turn rested upon the band of yellow earth in which I have found so many, flint Cores and flakes (4 on plan) For the sake of brevity, I shall call this band of earth the " flint earth ". The debris which lay on the grave floor contained some fragmentary and crumbling human bones and teeth. These bones, however, were all so damaged by the subsidence of the grave, and by the action of time, as to make it difficult to extract any entire piece. Among the debris were a few rude flakes of no certain character, but at the N. E. end, where teeth occurred, I found the half of an arrow head of Neolithic type-the only implement, be it noted, of true Neolithic type which has hitherto been found in the mound. Judging from the weathered appearance of its broken side, it had been broken a long time.
The teeth seem to have belonged to an old individual, being worn down to mere stumps. Shells, which lay in great quantity among the bones, were principally of the common limpet, periwinkle, and others still common on the neighbouring shore. In most cases, these would not bear handling, and those which I succeeded in extracting entire showed no traces of having been perforated for use as ornaments. Immediately above the covering slab were more bones ; these also too decayed to bear handling, with the exception of small portions of a skull and some more teeth which occurred at the S. W. end of the grave i. e., at the end opposite to where the other teeth were found. From this it would seem that there had been two interments in this small grave -one above the slab, and one beneath it. In the bottom grave there occurred the bones of a small animal, probably a hare.
Since writing the above, Prof. W. Boyd Dawkins has kindly examined the specimens, and from his notes I gather that there were three interments, i. e., of an old adult, a young adult, and a child. Among the grave refuse he also identified one Neolithic arrow head (broken), one quartz scraper, several flints and flakes, shells of periwinkles, limpets, and dogwhelks, and a few bones of small animals. Also, among other human bones, shells, etc., which I got near the graves when I first began to search (vide 2 on plan), I have found a lon; piece of bone rudely fashioned and cut. It is 3¾ inches in length, by 3/8 in breadth, and the point is broken.
So much for this partially destroyed grave. I wish make a few observations on the relative positions of the graves and the " flint earth." I have attentively and repeatedly examined the connection between them, and, though I am conscious that it may be thought that the flints which occur are only such as are generally found scattered through the earth of tumuli, etc. ; yet I have good reasons for concluding that in this case it is not so :--
1st-The nature and position of the "flint earth " must strike a careful examiner (No. 4, pl. I.). Near the graves it is a foot in thickness, and the flints, while they occur plentifully in it, are rarely found above, and never below it. This in itself is extremely curious, for if they had been indiscriminately thrown around the graves they would have been found so. For in the black earth above the " flint earth " there are plenty of stones and boulders which would have sunk along with the fling, supposing that what I might call the stratification of the flints had been the work of earth worms. Otherwise we mu ;t assume that the worms were particularly anxious to bury the flints only.
2nd- In the making of the smaller kists the " flint earth " was not disturbed, their floors resting upon it, but when the large kist was constructed, the grave hole was dug through the " flint earth " to the gravel beneath. (See plan).
These two sets of facts seem to me to prove that the " flint earth " was as it is now prior to the construction of the graves.
Other facts point to the same conclusion. Towards the top of the " flint earth," and near a grave, I found a small fragment of coarse pottery surrounded by shells of the kind already mentioned. This, like most pottery found in ancient graves, etc., is full of small bits of quartz. It is blackened by the action of fire on its convex or outside part. From this it would seem to have been part of a cooking vessel. I found another fragment of pottery of similar make in the " flint earth," some seven feet from any of the graves.
"The " flint earth" itself is of a red clayey nature. It dips towards the sea, and was probably the surface of the " brooghs " before the interments. Most of the flints found in it are but the refuse of the workshop, so to speak. But not all. Fesides a large " skin scraper " of flint, and one of quartz, I have found four awls, many flake scrapers, many " used up " flakes, some curiously worked pointed implements-probably arrow heads-in fact, two or three dozen flints, all bearing evidence of having been used as implements, and a quantity of very minute implements of two distinct types. Some of the latter have evidently been used for scraping round articles "such as an arrow shaft," as Prof. W. Boyd Dawkins suggests-being worn into a semicircular hollow at the base. The sketch (P. 2. A.) shows their general character, the end being worn out by scraping. These are mostly very small.
The other sort of minute implements range in size from half an inch to an inch. They are almost all alike but if it had not been for their constant occurrence at different places in the " flint earth," I should never have taken them to be implements. But when one finds about 50 flints all bearing a certain definite form scattered throughout a layer of earth 70 feet in length, one is forced to the conclusion that they were used for some special purpose. Their shape is invariably a long triangle, one side being sworn away by scraping, while the other side preserves, in most cases, its natural sharp edge. At the base they are worn hollow, but in such a fashion that one side of the hollow forms a hind of tang. I have never seen any implements like them elsewhere. (B. plate-2,). (2)
Many of these " used up " flakes are mere stumps, the end being worn away at a more or less obtuse angle to the sides by scraping. My conclusions are--
1st-That the " flint earth " was at one time the natural surface of the ground, and that the spot was used as a convenient camping ground by Neolithic savages, who made their flint implements from the natural nodules of flint gathered, perhaps, from the neighbouring shores. That shell-fish, such as are found on our coasts, formed part of their repasts, and that crabs were also eaten (I found portion of a crab nipper in the "flint earth "), and also wild rabbits [fpc ? rabbits were supposed to be introduced to Britain by the Romans and to Man possibly even later] and hares-(two teeth in " flint earth"). That they knew the use of pottery, used bows and arrows, and had weapons tipped with flint and bone. They probably caught fish, and resembled some of the coast tribes of Terra del Fuego, described in the voyages of Captain Cook.
2nd-That having been some time inhabited, the spot was converted mto a burial ground, perhaps by the same family who had encamped there. Allowing these old flint chippers to have been akin in habits to the modern Eskimos, there is improbable in this idea, as we know the Eskimos, like other savage tribes, convert the dwelling-house into a tomb when the occupant dies. These savages would make a stone coffin, and heap the earth in a mound above it Probably the large kist was the first constructed. Once the tumulus was raised upon the spot, it would doubtless become " taboo ".
This find is especially fortunate in one respect, via., that as the ground has never been under cultivation, the flints are all as sharp as when first chipped. Flints found in ploughed fields are not ahvays reliable, as the chipping on them may have been caused by horses, ploughs, etc., and, doubtless, a great many flake "scrapers" owe their abrasions to these causes.
P. S.-When I first visited the spot, a slab was pointed out to me by one of the workmen as portion of the cover of the large grave. It had shallow holes worked in it. Unfortunately it has got mislaid.
(1) six years really, as I began to search in 1882. (See Manx Note Book No. 2, 1885.)
The large cist (No. 1 pl.) when I first visited the place, had been entirely emptied of its contents, and one end removed. I heard that a skull from it had been in the possession of a workman for some days, and that he had at last thrown it away among the rubbish with which the breakwater was being filled up ! The side stones and one end remaining. were large slabs of limestone three or four inches in thickness and about 3 ft. 6" in height The square shape of the cist suggested that the body had been buried in a contracted position. The other graves were also too short to have allowed the bodies to have lain at full length. There were no traces of pottery within these graves.
The graves of this undoubted Neolithic tumulus have not been included in the list of pre-Christian burials in Rushen published in Vol. II. "Journal of the Isle of Man Nat. Hist and Antiquarian Society," 1901.
(2) Quite recently while looking over some implements which I found at Chunar, N. W. T. India. I found one entire and several broken implements of this type among them. They are probably scrapers intended for finishing very small articles.